Metastatic Breast Cancer
Secondary breast cancer, also called metastatic breast cancer, occurs when the disease spreads from the breast to elsewhere in the body. Some patients will have their first diagnosis of breast cancer only to discover that it has spread and is in fact metastatic breast cancer. Many women who are diagnosed with secondary cancer have had breast cancer at a previous time. Secondary cancer is caused by cancerous cells breaking away from their first place of infection to travel via the bloodstream to other parts of the body. Obviously metastatic breast cancer is serious and harder to fight because the disease is not confined simply to the breast.
When metastatic cancer develops, the most likely places it will spread to are the liver, lungs, bones and the brain. But because this type of cancer spreads, it does not mean it will necessarily spread to most or all of these places.
Because every woman is unique, those who develop metastatic breast cancer will have their own set of symptoms. These are determined by the location of the secondary cancer. If in the bones, the symptoms will usually mean aches and pains in the bones and particularly so when moving. It can also be difficult to sleep.
If the cancer spreads to the brain, the likely symptoms are headaches, vomiting and nausea. It might be that the patient will have less control over a limb such as an arm. It could be too that they have dizzy spells and have their vision impaired in some way. In rare cases a cancer which spreads to the brain can cause fits.
If the cancer spreads to the liver, the patient may lose weight; suffer a loss of appetite or even a bloated abdomen. With the cancer spreading to the woman’s lungs, the patient may have a dry cough, chest pains and a general shortness of breath. But while all the above are symptoms of metastatic breast cancer, it does not necessarily follow that any or all of them will occur.
Once a secondary or metastatic breast cancer is diagnosed. The treatment aims to achieve several results. 1. To take control of the cancer and stop it spreading. 2. To provide pain relief from the symptoms and 3. To improve the patient’s quality of life. These things can be achieved using a mixture of treatments. The choice of types of treatment depends on a number of factors including the state of the cancer and the patient’s ability to handle any side effects which may occur. As always, your doctor and any specialist are able to answer all your questions. Be willing to ask questions as it is your body and your fight. Do not be afraid to speak up.
Some women who are diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer are offered the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial as part of their treatment. One of the exciting things about breast cancer research is that new drugs and practices are often being trialed. Any improvements are then approved and made freely available to future patients around the globe. Clinical trials too is a subject you should feel free to raise with your doctor.
Metastatic Breast Cancer